ALL was tense yesterday in some parts of Nasarawa State following the killing of 19 Fulani herdsmen at a funeral in a settlement near Keana town in Keana Local Government Area .
The incident occurred at a Fulani settlement on Giza Road, Gidan Ardo Sodangi axis in the local government.
The Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), the umbrella body of Fulani herdsmen, said last night that the killings might affect the ongoing reconciliation between farmers and herdsmen in 10 states.
Residents accused soldiers of carrying out the killings.
But the Defence Headquarters said although it had not received any report on the killings, the incident was being investigated.
According to one of the eye-witnesses, the soldiers stormed the Fulani settlement on Giza road, Gidan Ardo Sodangi and opened fire on mourners.
The source said 15 died at the funeral. Four others died in the hospital.
He also said the “soldiers” invaded Secretariat Road in Keana where they allegedly killed two more herdsmen behind the Federal Government Girls College.
The source said: “The soldiers stormed the settlement where the mourners had converged on the house of the Fulani Community leader, Ardo Sodangi Saudi.
“The mourners had assumed that the soldiers were around to sympathise with them only for them to open fire.
“This led to the instant killing of 15 people on the spot. Others died while being evacuated to Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital in Lafia.
“No one suspected such bizarre killings because Keana area had witnessed peaceful coexistence between farmers and Fulani herdsmen. We cannot understand why these troops invaded a peaceful area.”
Responding to a question, another source said: “We learnt the soldiers arrived in Keana at about 10.30pm on Wednesday in six Hilux vans and two armoured tanks, in preparation for the attack on the Fulani settlement.
“We suspected a premeditated attack on the Fulani settlement. This is unfortunate.”
The National Secretary of MACBAN, Alhaji Sale Bayari, who is a member of the Fulani Herdsmen-Farmers Peace and Reconciliation Committee raised by the Inspector—General of Police, said: “These Fulani herdsmen were in a settlement , which is less than 10 kilometers to Keana to mourn an old man who died. They were just finishing the burial, only for the military to open fire. They shot over 20 but 15 had been buried.
“On Monday, we began a reconciliation tour of 10 states. We had visited Benue and Nasarawa states. But. Barely got to the third state(Taraba) on Thursday when this incident happened. We thought we had achieved a ceasefire only for this military intervention to draw us back. This incident will affect the ongoing peace process.
“It had been in the media that Mr. President had ordered deployment of troops in some states but we did not know it would turn out this way. Now the agenda of the military looks different. The thing is appearing to look as if it is ethnic and religious cleansing.
“We are appealing to the government that it is not in the interest of this country for Fulani to be militarised because the situation could be worse than we may imagine. We are doing our best to calm down the aggrieved Fulani who were agitated over the killings in Keana.
“Fulani herdsmen should not be targeted for elimination by troops. The consequence will be grievous because about 87 per cent of the beef being consumed in this country is provided by us.”
He went on: “For this kind of jungle justice to be meted out is unfair and inhuman.”
The Director of Defence Information at the Defence Headquarters, Maj-Gen. Chris Olukolade, who spoke at 10 pm with our correspondent, said: “On the claim that soldiers killed people in Nasarawa State, no such report has been received from anywhere.
“It will be investigated to confirm if those you said carried out the attack are soldiers indeed.
“This is certainly not the purpose of the operation there. You have to be sure that the incident was not one of the atrocities of the armed gangs. This is being investigated.”